DJI’s Mavic Pro is without doubt one of the most popular consumer drones on the market today. It sits nicely in the gap between enthusiast and professional: It’s advanced enough for serious aerial photography but super-portable and far from intimidating for beginners.
Once you’ve spent the best part of $1,000 on a camera drone, there are a few things you’ll want to do. The first is not crash, obviously. But the second is to make sure your footage and your new drone’s performance are as good as possible. So with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of common mistakes that Mavic Pro pilots make.
Reversing into Things
It’s all too easy to think that because the Mavic Pro is packed with obstacle avoidance features, it’s impossible to crash. Nothing could be further from the truth. This complacency, combined with not looking where you are going, can easily lead to an accident.
This will happen most often when you’re flying backwards at speed. Imagine the scene: you’re looking down at your monitor and getting a reverse shot as you sweep over a point of interest. It’s all looking great. But the next thing you know, there’s a loud bang as your precious Mavic Pro collides with a tree and gets stuck in one of the branches. It’s easy for this to happen for three reasons.
First, the monitor doesn’t show you a reverse view of what is behind you. Second, the Mavic doesn’t have any rear obstacle sensors. And third, it’s much harder to judge speed (and therefore distance) when you’re watching on a monitor and flying backwards. Which leads us to…
Thinking Obstacle Avoidance Makes You Invincible
There’s no doubt that DJI’s collision-sensing tech is impressive. More often than not, FlightAutonomy will detect and avoid obstacles in front and below you. The system is made up of 7 components including 5 cameras. There are forward and downward dual vision sensors, the main camera, dual-band satellite positioning (GPS and GLONASS), 2 ultrasonic rangefinders, redundant sensors and 24 computing cores.
That’s a lot of tech. But there are two caveats. First, there is definitely room for error; it’s not a perfect system and it will make mistakes. Certain objects, such as fences or branches, might not be dense enough to register as an obstacle. Although they are easily enough to take down your Mavic, certain things might not be detected every time.
Second, the accuracy of the obstacle avoidance system depends to an extent on the quality of light. If you’re flying in dark conditions or at night, it’s not going to work so well / at all. The same is true if you’ve got Sport Mode enabled.
Finally, the Mavic Pro doesn’t have the most comprehensive obstacle avoidance system. It’s not been designed to work in all possible directions. As we’ve seen above, although you can fly backwards, for example, the Mavic can’t detect obstacles behind you. The same goes for detecting obstacles directly to the side or above your drone.
Bear these limitations in mind when you’re flying.
Forgetting to Remove the Gimbal Cover or the Gimbal Clamp
These two plastic parts have been designed to keep the Mavic’s gimbal and camera safe and stable during transport. And they are important: The last thing you want is something scratching the camera lens or bending the gimbal.
Because they are so important, it’s remarkably easy to turn on your Mavic and even take off without removing them both. Both should be taken off before you turn your Mavic on.
Here’s why: The gimbal clamp secures the gimbal and stops it from moving while you’re on the move. When you start up your Mavic, the gimbal runs through an automatic calibration process and performs some simple movements. If the clamp is still on at this point, the gimbal motor is going to be fighting against the clamp and potentially causing damage. Think of it like driving with the handbrake on.
Forgetting the cover is a more superficial problem. The camera hasn’t been designed to shoot pictures and images through the plastic dome. As well as not getting the clearest possible image, you’ll also risk ruining your shots with some nasty reflections.
Testing the Mavic Pro Indoors
This point probably applies to all new drones. Yours has just arrived in the mail and you’re eager to get it up in the air. So eager, in fact, that you want to try it out there and then, in the comfort of your living room.
You might have a huge living room, it might be tiny. Either way, it’s not a great idea for your first flight to be indoors. You’re asking for trouble. Not only are there plenty of obstacles nearby, you, the pilot, are also likely to be extremely close to the action should anything go wrong.
It’s also best to fly a new drone outside for the first time to allow you to get used to its power. A small flick of your thumb might barely move drones you’ve previously flown. But it could send your Mavic careering into the kitchen.
More importantly, many of the systems that make the Mavic Pro remarkably stable during flight are disrupted when flying inside. There’s little or no GPS signal, so drifting is to be expected. And even with the downward vision position in action, the uniformity of most household flooring makes it difficult for the Mavic to detect surface patterns and stabilize itself. Oh, and if you’re flying above a carpet, that absorbs ultrasound as well as being uniform, rendering your ultrasonic sensors unable to assist with stability too.
There are also a bunch of settings to go through before you even take off. One of the most important is calibrating the Return to Home function. If you lose connection and you’re flying indoors, the Mavic might decide to Return to Home by flying up to the RTH altitude. That could involve flying directly into the ceiling, which isn’t going to end well.
Fly outdoors while you get accustomed to the Mavic Pro. Don’t become a Youtube sensation for all the wrong reasons.
Crashing While Flying Beyond Line of Sight
Flying Beyond Line of Sight isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it can be dangerous if you don’t take certain things into account. If you’re using DJI Goggles or lose sight of your drone for any reason, you’re not going to have the awareness you need to see obstacles and react in time.
Just like when you’re flying backwards, objects could suddenly loom up without giving you much time to avoid them. With the Phantom 4 Pro, for example, flying beyond line of sight is arguably less dangerous because it can detect obstacles in five directions. But the Mavic Pro is vulnerable to trees and power lines above you, as well as all sorts of obstacles to the side or behind you.
More often than not, the higher you fly (within reason) the safer your flight path is going to be when beyond line of sight. So make sure to set your RTH function nice and high if there are structures or trees that could get in the way.
You should also have a spotter with you to advise on any structures or obstacles that might be outside of your vision.
Flying Despite High Interference
Before you take off, you might get a warning notification in the DJI Go app suggesting that there’s a high level of interference. This could be anything from a power line to a base station or a transmission tower.
Interference is bad because it makes the orders you send to the Mavic Pro less reliable, from directional steering to altitude control. An unresponsive drone puts the Mavic at risk, as well as you or anybody nearby. Your best bet is to fly somewhere far from interference. So if you see that warning, avoid taking off. Figure out what’s causing it and move a little further away.